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Chaos in the House: McCarthy’s plea and the plea for votes



WASHINGTON (AP) — It was the extraordinary moment that brought House Republicans to the brink and, ultimately, the moment they found their way back.

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Just one vote away from becoming Speaker of the House, California Republican Kevin McCarthy rose from his chair and walked down the center aisle to the back of the chamber. It was close to midnight and he had already lost 13 speaking votes over four long days. The room fell almost silent as it became apparent that the GOP leader was now asking, actually begging, the bombastic, bullying and defiant Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz to change his vote from “present” to “McCarthy.”

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Gaetz, who had hurled personal insults at McCarthy just hours earlier on the House floor, said no.

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McCarthy walked slowly down the hall, alone, head bowed to the floor. But she turned around when she heard a scuffle behind him. Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, a McCarthy Republican ally, angrily confronted Gaetz and told him he would regret his decision. Lawmakers on the floor screamed in disbelief as a colleague stopped Rogers.

McCarthy stepped back to make sure the discussion was over, then returned to his chair in defeat.

He lost the fourteenth ballot. The allies moved to abruptly adjourn the House, their hoped-for unity seemingly falling apart.

Then tempers cooled. And within the hour, McCarthy and his allies had persuaded his other remaining opponents to vote “present” as well, reducing the vote total needed for McCarthy to win and awarding him the presidency early Saturday morning, after a historic, remarkable and somewhat surprising. Repeat voting week.

“I hope one thing is clear,” McCarthy said when he finally picked up the deck after 1 a.m. “I never give up.”

The chaos on the House floor came exactly two years after the Capitol insurrection of January 6, 2021. During a late-night session following the attack, McCarthy called it “the saddest day I’ve ever had” as a member of the Congress. In the days that followed, McCarthy blamed then-President Donald Trump for encouraging his supporters who attacked the building and disrupted President Joe Biden‘s certification. But just a few weeks later, McCarthy traveled to see Trump in Florida and made amends.

The scene on Friday was a different kind of chaos, but it was a full-circle moment for Republicans, who had ceded both houses of Congress and the presidency to Democrats after the violent insurrection. While many of them denounced Trump at the time, McCarthy’s visit to Florida brought him back into the fold, and the former president was working on the phone Friday night, calling Gaetz and the other holdouts.

“He was with me from the beginning,” McCarthy said after the final vote, also pointing to Trump’s phone calls.

While the US House of Representatives is often rowdy, the events of the week were almost surreal: vote after vote, loss after loss, and eventual success after defeating seemingly intransigent opponents.

McCarthy needed two more votes before the count Friday night, which didn’t begin until 10 p.m., late enough for two of his supporters, one whose wife had given birth earlier that week and another who was ill, to have time. to return to Washington. McCarthy and his allies looked confident going in, but as the votes piled up, it became clear he would be one short.

Two of McCarthy’s closest lieutenants, North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry and Louisiana Rep. Garrett Graves, sat on either side of Gaetz during the vote, with Graves at one point on his knees. But Gaetz could only be partially swayed, and he stood up to say “present” when the list came to his name. It wasn’t enough, and McCarthy approached him just before the vote was called, C-SPAN cameras following his short journey.

Gaetz was angrily pointing at McCarthy during the conversation. But Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, a McCarthy supporter who was standing nearby, said the exchange between the two men was pleasant and McCarthy only asked him to switch his vote. Gaetz said his “present” vote was as far as he could go, Buck said.

McCarthy later said that Gaetz eventually “got everyone to the point where no one voted against me,” persuading some of his colleagues to vote “present” as well. In the end, no Republican voted against McCarthy.

They wanted “to bring this conference together and work together,” McCarthy said.


Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Farnoush Amiri and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.


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